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sure, yet we must have him in reality, dwelling in us, renewing our natures, and being the principle of our holiness, if we would follow Jesus.
We must also receive the same system of divine truths, otherwise our obedience will spring from different motives. The infinite holiness and unspotted purity, as well as the abounding grace and ineffable mercy of God; the guilt and corruption of fallen man; the absolute need of an atoning sacrifice and of the influences of the blessed Spirit; these and similar truths lay at the foundation of the mediatorial work of the God-man; and these were perpetually regarded as the springs of action by the man Christ Jesus. In vain will we pretend to follow his example, if these truths are disbelieved or lightly regarded by us: if they are not cordially embraced by us.
But in what particular instances must we take Jesus as our model, and conform ourselves to his example? Here so extensive and delightful a field opens before me, that I regret that I only touch on some of those graces and virtues of which he is our illustrious pattern.
1. Imitate him in his piety towards God. It was constant and unwearied. In no single instant did his heart cease to glow with affection to his Father. Ye who present in your lives a perpetual vicissitude of attention to the duties of religion, and a pursuit of the vanities of the world, or the indulgence of sin, Jesus is not your model. His course was steady and uninterrupted. Even in his tender youth he occupied himself with the business of his Father, and till his last groan his devotion was never intermitted. Young persons, behold your duty! Can you wish a more illustrious example than that of the Son of God, who came down from heaven to purchase felicity for you,
and to show you the path which conducts thither? Ye who did run well for a season," and once appeared solicitous and engaged in the concerns of eternity, but who have lost your warmth, blush when you contemplate the steady path of Jesus, and return from your wanderings.
His piety was zealous. He does not coldly and heartlessly engage in the duties of religion. He announces the truths of God on all occasions, in cities and villages, in fields and the desert, on the ocean and in his journeyings, in life and during the agonies of death. To save sinners, he disregards the insults of the proud pharisee, and the reproaches of a deluded people. To bring back to the fold the lost sheep, the good Shepherd knows neither obstacles nor dangers. So delighted is he with his Father's business, that when faint and weary he pauses at Jacob's well and requests water of the Samaritan woman, the conviction which pierces her heart, and causes her to inquire after Messiah, makes him forget the thirst which had oppressed him, and the food for which his disciples had gone.
He never can see with insensibility religion neglected or dishonoured. If at any time he appears to lay aside his meekness, it is only when he sees his Father's house profaned, or when he beholds the hypocrisy of the pharisees. Imitate this zeal, ye who talk of God, of the atonement, of eternity, with a freezing indifference which chills, instead of warming the heart of those who hear you.
His piety was attended with frequent prayer. Nay, his whole life was a kind of prayer, a constant course of communion with God; since if the sacrifice was not always offering, yet was the fire still kept alive." [Scougal.] In the midst of the world
he was still with God. He often retired to converse with him, and consecrated often to this office those hours which men devote to sleep. He appeared to have no necessity to pray, but yet he was always engaged. And in these prayers, how does his heart appear penetrated with devotion, confidence, and love! What soul so insensible, as not to be touched when we listen to him at the tomb of Lazarus, in his sacerdotal prayer, or at the mount of Olives? Imitate him, ye who seldom pray; who scarcely ever think of God in the tumult of the world, and whose closets seldom witness your tears and your prayers! Often raise your hearts in ejaculations in the midst of business and cares, and have seasons of privacy and places of retirement to converse with God. There you may expect a permanent blessing; for "though the dews of divine grace fall every where, they lie longest in the shade."
2. He is an example to us in his benevolence. This is exhibited in all his conduct, as it breathed in all his discourses. On the wings of charity he descended from heaven, and his whole life proved that he had lain from eternity in the bosom of everlasting love. By a single trait he is painted in the scriptures; but how majestic, though simple, is this trait! "He went about doing good." Wherever he went, he bore blessings with him, relieved indigence, consoled affliction, restored joy to the countenance of a desolate father, to the heart of a tender mother, to the bosom of a family plunged in wo. He rejected. none who applied to him. All his miracles bore the impress of charity, and though sometimes refused to the vain curiosity of the great, were always granted to the woes, the necessities, and the tears of the unhappy. See him expiring: his strength is exhaust
ed; death clouds his eyes; his soul is just ready to depart; but charity cannot die in his heart, and the last accents of his expiring voice bear to heaven the most ardent supplications for his executioners! Behold your model, Christians! Like your Master, pity the afflicted; relieve the indigent; "weep with those that weep ;" and let unfeigned benevolence dwell in your soul; or else renounce the name of the Redeemer.
3. He is an example to us in his humility. I speak not here of his wonderful condescension in assuming our nature; for that no creature can ever imitate; but of his lowliness during life. Never were such endowments as he possessed; yet, with celestial wisdom, he never was assuming. Wielding almighty power, he never trampled on the meanest creature, nor wrought a single miracle for ostentation and vain glory. He would even have suppressed the fame of his miracles, had not the glory of God and the benefit of mankind required their publication; and when his works were noised abroad, it was every where told that he was as humble as he was mighty. If he was transfigured upon Tabor, it was when he was on his way to Calvary, and that he might fortify his disciples against the scandal of the cross. If he listened to hosannas, it was when he was about to humble himself to an ignominious death.
Here also imitate your Redeemer; let it be your aim and desire to cultivate, not fame, but holiness. Seek not your own praises, but God's glory. Cherish lowly thoughts of yourselves and your performances. Stoop to the poor and the despised; perform to them the offices of benevolence, and then like Jesus you shall be exalted.
4. He is an example to us of superiority to the world. He might have enjoyed all that the world idolizes; his renunciation of it was voluntary. In vain were the kingdoms of this world and their glory spread before him by the tempter : he answered only, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" He showed his superiority to earth, not by retiring from it like the monk or the anchoret, to the obscurity of a cloister, or the solitude of a desert; (for his is a religion of active benevolence,) but by living in the midst of the world, that he might benefit others by his instructions and his example and yet repelling all its temptations, and showing that his heart was above it.
Ah, brethren! do we all here imitate Jesus? Are there none who, instead of being crucified to the world, are in danger of being eternally killed by its close embraces; of being pressed down to everlasting death by the weight of that silver and gold, the pursuit of which almost alone occupies them, and which are poured upon them? Do we imitate Christ when we mingle with delight in those circles of dissipation in which only a worldly spirit reigns: in which it would be an unpardonable offence against decorum to speak of a bleeding Saviour, or of the mysteries of redemption; at which even the thoughtless and the gay are surprised to behold the profess ed followers of the Lamb? I examine not the abstract question, how far these in themselves are lawful? but I only ask, and let the answer be made by conscience, would your Saviour have attended them? Do you in your heart think that at such times you are following him?
5. He is an example to us in his patience and forgiveness. His patience in suffering was as great as his diligence in performing the will of God. Under